Top 12 NJ Arts Events of the Week: John Mellencamp, The Chieftains, more

Mellencamp New Brunswick

John Mellencamp has shows coming up in New Brunswick and New York.

A roundup of arts events taking place around the state, through Feb. 27:


Heartland rocker John Mellencamp brings his John Mellencamp Show tour to the State Theatre in New Brunswick, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m., before stops at the Beacon Theatre in New York, Feb. 25-27 at 8 p.m. Online sales will include a copy of his November album Other People’s Stuff, a compilation of cover songs he has recorded throughout his career, ranging from the ’50s rock ‘n’ roll song “Teardrops Will Fall” to the Civil Rights anthem “Eyes on the Prize” and Stevie Wonder’s “I Don’t Know Why (I Love You).”

• The Chieftains, notable for both their mastery of traditional Irish music and their wide-ranging collaborations (with everyone from The Rolling Stones to Luciano Pavarotti) usually spend the weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day on an American tour, and this year is no different. The tour’s only New Jersey stop will be at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

The London African Gospel Choir — featuring African singers now living in London — will perform songs from Paul Simon’s landmark Graceland album and other material at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m.

• Ricky Byrd, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer as a former member of Joan Jett’s Blackhearts, will present an evening of music and conversation titled “From Rock and Roll to Recovery and Everything in Between” at the Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. The program is free but pre-registration is recommended.

The Jeb Jones Band, whose members include Johnny Markowski of New Riders of the Purple Stage, will perform with special guests John Popper (of Blues Traveler), Sandy Mack and poet Frank Messina at FM Music Venue and Bar in Jersey City, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. with Sylvana Joyce and the Moment opening.

Arlen Schumer, former art director of the Bruce Springsteen fanzine Thunder Road, will give a multimedia presentation on Springsteen’s Sept. 19, 1978 concert at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, Feb. 23 at 9 p.m. at the Triad Theater in New York. It’s titled “Spirit in the Night: Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Show.” Schumer attended the show, and also created a special design for the theater’s marquee.



In advance of her 8 p.m. Feb. 27 concert at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, soprano Renée Fleming will participate in a panel discussion on the subject of “Music and the Mind,” Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Nicholas Music Center at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. The panel discussion is free, though tickets are required; visit

The New Jersey Festival Orchestra will present Puccini’s “Tosca,” Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield, and Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. at the Concert Hall at Drew University in Madison. Soprano Jenny Schuler will sing the title role, with tenor Kirk Dougherty as Mario Cavaradossi, and baritone Todd Thomas as Scarpia. The opera will be sung in Italian, with English supertitles. There will also be a free pre-concert lecture on the opera by Michael Rosin before the church performance, at 6 p.m.


Flamenco dancer Farruquito stars with dancer Gemma Moneo and a nine-piece ensemble of singers, dancers and musicians in “Farruquito,” which will be presented at Town Hall in New York, Feb. 22 at 8 p.m.; the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m.; and BergenPAC in Englewood, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. Farruquito is the grandson of the legendary Flamenco dancer El Farruco, and created the show himself; it pays tribute to his family’s legacy but also puts his own spin on Flamenco. “I grew up not only listening to Michael Jackson, a personal favorite, but also Aretha Franklin, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles and so many others,” he said in a press release. “And of course I bring their inspiration to flamenco because that’s what I feel, that’s my territory.” (For a chance to win two tickets to the BergenPAC show, send an email to by midnight Feb. 21 with the word “Farruquito” in the subject line.)

Works by Wendy Red Star will be displayed at the Newark Museum from Feb. 23 to June 16.


• “Wendy Red Star: A Scratch on the Earth,” which opens at the Newark Museum on Feb. 23 and runs through June 16, features 40 works by the Portland, Oregon artist. In the words of a press release: “Drawing on pop culture, conceptual art strategies, and the Crow traditions within which she was raised, Red Star pushes photography in new directions — from self-portraiture to photo-collage and mixed media — to bring to life her unique perspective on American history.” The exhibition includes Red Star’s work in textiles and film and sound installations, in addition to photography, and includes an “immersive” video that will be screened inside a sweat lodge created by her.

The National Portrait Gallery in London, in association with the Princeton University Art Museum, presents “Gainsborough’s Family Album” at the Princeton museum, Feb. 23 to June 9. The exhibition gathers together, for the first time, nearly 50 images that 18th century British painter Thomas Gainsborough made of his wife, daughters, father, sisters, servants and pets.


The Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie will present “Young Mark Twain in Trenton: A Week-long Commemoration of Twain’s Visit to Trenton in 1869,” Feb. 23 through March 3. In addition to an exhibition titled “Twain and Trenton’s Gilded Age: Ephemera and Artifacts Related to Mark Twain and to the Years 1870-1900 in Trenton,” the week will include a series of talks with historian David Bosted and sculptor Zenos Frudakis. The exhibition will include copies of two speeches Twain gave in Trenton in 1869.

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